The Stigma Of The SUV
Everyone and their mother has one nowadays, but do they admit it?
Let's say it's 1991 and your talking with your best mate, Dave. You mention that you've just bought an SUV. Dave is going to be a little dumbfounded at what that means. So, you explain that it stands for Sports, Utility, Vehicle and that they're the type of cars for people who like to go skiing and wakeboarding (probably off the beaches of some dark and dreary east coast seaside town) and need the space and off road ability for all their leisure activities.
Dave proceeds to laugh in your face uncontrollably, "You, wakeboarding!? Oh, pull the other one!". His laughter severely increases to the point of him going red in the face and bursting a blood vessel as you reveal to him that the SUV you've bought is a Vauxhall Fronterra...
They even had the audacity to call it a 'Sport'...
30 years ago, it was pretty much a joke to be seen buying a bright blue life size Tonka truck with yellow and red stripes down the side, not forgetting a decal outlining a bird you would usually see flying around Brighton seafront, picking chips out of holidaymakers newspaper rolls. They might have been capable off roaders, but it wasn't about that. They were embarrassing, and most of them never saw gods great green fields. Unless if it was the muddy ditch along the side of a country road whilst letting a car past.
You'd have sounded even more insane if you wandered into the same Vauxhall dealership that you bought the Fronterra from and asked for a crossover. To the poorly dressed salesman in a badly fitted suit and mullet, the first thing that comes to mind when you mention crossover to him is probably the 1972 film 'Scooby-Doo Meets Batman'. Yet when you try to explain that a crossover is all the best bits from the Nova/ Astra mashed up with the big size of the Fronterra, he hits you over the head with his clipboard and next thing, you're being carried away by two men in white coats bound for the motoring industry equivalent of HMP Wakefield.
Why is it then, that almost 30 years after the Fronterra was launched, everyone and their dog wants to drive SUV's & crossovers.
Let's get this one out of the way first. Size is one of the biggest (pun unintended) reasons why people buy these types of cars. With a commandeering seating position, high above most other vehicles, you get a better view and in turn probably more confidence whilst driving. Along with this, you get more space to store your gym equipment, briefcases or for the majority of stereotypical SUV and crossover buyers, your child's booster seat.
The main problem I have with the current trend of buying these cars because of their size is that I feel like for many it's just a pissing up the wall competition of 'mines taller than yours', until one day, we're all going to end up driving cars that are more akin to the size of Buckingham Palace on wheels, rather than a Land Rover Defender.
For me, this is the biggest culprit of 'SUV culture', were someone buys the flashiest biggest car they can, all because it has the word Porsche written on the bonnet.
Mind you, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It's been popular for 50 years now, as ever since the launch of the original Range Rover, people realised that large cars and 'luxury' could exist as one entity. No longer were the frivolities of having a drinks cabinet, a radio-cassette player and leather seats confined to cars with wheels that have a diameter smaller than 20 inches. Soon there was nary a rich person picking up their monocle to look at buying anything different as a means of getting to the shops or to cross the Mongolian deserts.
Was the original Range Rover the start of this trend, where rugged ability meets luxury?
Most people don't buy an SUV for its performance. At the end of the day, it's there to get you from A to B over some rough terrain at a push, and that's what most expect of them, which is absolutely fine.
Crossover's are slightly different though. As the majority of them are either based off of or made to look like their hatchback counterparts, and typically don't have 4 wheel drive. They therefore, typically, have a similar engine set up, which means the bigger, heavier car will take forever to set off from a set of traffic lights.
Not like this matters though, as car manufacturers are now noticing this and taking note. Take a look at the new Ford Puma ST-Line (yes that name still annoys me for laughing in the face of the original Puma), which, with its 1.5 turbocharged Eco-Boost engine, can reach 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds. Not bad at all for the driver who wants practicality with performance.
The one fatal flaw with SUV's and the newer crossovers, is the stigma that accompanies them. As soon as you buy one, you're seen as a family man or a mother on the way to school or in the case of the luxury brands, someone who has too much money and just wants a big brand name car with a personalised number plate that reads 'TO55 POT' to everyone lesser than them. Someone who just wants to keep with the Jones' "because everyone has an SUV nowadays".
As much as I love to hate on SUV's and crossover's because of their typically boring, ugly looks and my preference to go for a saloon or a standard hatchback, they are now becoming a sort of 'world car', where everyone and their mother is driving one. This isn't necessarily a bad thing either, as there is variety finally coming to the market with sports and EV models coming from manufacturers such as Jaguar, Tesla, Ford and MG.
The MG ZS EV has become one of the best selling EV crossovers, helping the market grow even further.
Why then, am I not so keen on owning one? For me it's the fact that I (and probably most people on DriveTribe will agree with me here) prefer a lower, sleeker looking car that doesn't look like its made out of Duplo (not that all SUV's and crossovers look like that) and doesn't spend all its life on a dual-carriageway or in the town centre.
It's not that these cars and SUV's are 'bad' cars, far from it. In this day and age you can have everything fitted to it from satellite navigation right through to a bloody refrigerator! Plus, many of them have horsepower to die for (although this is mainly in the luxury brands). But for me, they will always be the sort of boring car for people with no imagination, or someone who just wants to show off. But that's just my personal opinion and I'm not going to slam the people who buy one for many of the positive upsides of getting a practical large car.
Much like in the way that many boring cars from the 80's and 90's have become desirable classics, so will SUV's and crossovers. Maybe in 20 years, much like the way my parents think I've lost the plot because I have a liking for old British cars, I will probably have the same feeling for future generations who inherit these SUV's and crossovers as retro 'classics' .
I ASKED FELLOW DRIVETRIBERS WHAT THEY THOUGHT TO THE CURRENT SUV TREND
HERE'S WHAT RAHIL HASHMI HAD TO SAY:
"SUV's are seen as cars owned by housewives that have 3 children; all of which are forced to participate in a sport that they hate - This is a shame and no, I'm not talking about the sport - I'm talking about the fact that some manufacturers are building some brilliant cars but these are often labelled as boring due to the fact that they are SUV's."
"For example, the new BMW X5M is a 600hp beast and, in my opinion, it's the perfect car. It's practical, fast, it looks good and it drives well but due to the mum stereotype, car guys usually prefer estates/ wagons/ shooting brakes/ whatever the hell it's called this week."
"Personally, I just don't see the appeal of an estate because you take all of the excitement and flamboyance of the standard saloon and then you turn it into something that your grandad would own... It's just a bit boring."
"So, I do like SUV's and I prefer them over estates but I dislike how SUV's are perceived these days."
See, I understand where Rahil is coming from, like I've mentioned before, there is a lot to offer from the SUV market. Just look at the budget market with cars like the MG ZS, MG ZS EV, Dacia Stepway and the SsangYong Rexton, you get tonnes of bang for your buck, and the further you move upmarket to manufacturers such as BMW, Jaguar, Bentley and Rolls Royce, you get more luxury with the same 'rugged' practicality.
RÉMON KOK HAD THESE THOUGHTS ABOUT THE SUV TREND IN THE NETHERLANDS:
"In my opinion, they are beautiful cars, but they are really for outdoors/ off road use. I always notice that they're being bought by the rich to impress others by the cars size (ego) and price (arrogance)."
"It's also like having a American pick-up truck on European roads. Too big for it and way to close to the rear bumper of your car."
"Crossovers are in my opinion the better option because they fit the roads better, yet there are still sporty offerings out there for those who do like to show off whilst in the outdoors/ going off-road."
HERE'S DAMAN MATHARU'S THOUGHTS:
"SUV's and crossovers can work, when they have a purpose. SUV's can be a cool way to have a spacious car, and if you have lots of flat, yet gravel roads, like out in the country, the plastic cladding is a lot more functional than the painted bumpers."
"Luxury crossovers on the other hand, is the second silliest trend ever, succeeded by those SUV coupés. Those are terribly useless. Also, for those who do have an SUV, please get some mud flaps. People in small cars will thank you dearly on British B-Roads."
Overall, I think that the majority of people, both car enthusiasts and everyday drivers, understand the need and want for SUV's. Although many don't like to admit that this type of car is heading in the right direction, I think deep down, it's probably just a case of moving on with the times.
Much like with myself. I don't particularly like SUV's and Crossover's, but it's what Joe Public keeps buying and it's the way the motor industry is heading at the moment. I myself, and many others, aren't afraid of this change and even though we hope that someday, saloons and coupé's come round back into fashion, the SUV, with all of its upsides ,downsides, and gaudy stickers, is better than many dare to admit.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SUV'S?
LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!